A police officer is a police officer—more so, a distinguished retired cop who lives on past laurels—however impeccable his achievements were during service. Respect him. Expect him to protect you. But to allow him to assume the role of judge would be inappropriate.
And that is what has happened early this week when Julio Ribeiro donned the role of a judge for the 2nd time in the last one year and pontificated through his column in The Indian Express on what he considers the Hindutva agenda.
What are his grouse? Hemant Karkare is an honest officer and NIA’s insinuations are an insult to his memory. No one has a problem till this. After all, Ribeiro seems to know Karkare very well and is entitled to be angry over NIA’s charge sheet. But even here, we must remember that he is giving just emotional and moral support to his erstwhile friend. For, his column in The Indian Express does not point to any loopholes in NIA’s findings to support his outrage. Look at his admission (comments – in brackets – in the followign and subsequent quoted paragraphs from the Riberio’s article are of this author):
I did not look into those files (the Malegaon 2008 investigation files that Karkare brought to his residence) for lack of patience. I am sorry today that I did not take more interest in his findings. If I had done so I could have attempted to defend that good and honest man with concrete facts.
He does not have ‘concrete facts’ to punch holes in NIA’s charge sheet, but that does not stop him from casting aspersions on the teams that investigated Malegaon 2008 blast. Consider what he has to say:
The investigators seem to be hopelessly at odds with each other: The first set actually arresting the usual suspects (refers to the Muslim extremists. Notice Ribeiro’s dismissive language), the second collaring a more plausible group with concrete proof in the shape of telephone intercepts and recorded conversations (how does he know when he has not read the file? Not having gone through the case file, all he has to form an opinion are media reports), and then the third watering down the evidence and charges against the alleged culprits named by the Karkare team.
Agreed, Ribeiro did not read the case files. But, he could have read reports in the net which is flooded with data on the case. Sandhya Jain for one has been writing relentlessly since 2008 on the case. Her columns on how the case against Sadhvi Pragya rested on flimsy evidence and how she was tortured by ATS have not been contested effectively till date by anyone.
That Karkare is a martyr (his sacrifice is extraordinary and it is not my idea to belittle the same) is no reason why the investigation methods adopted by the ATS under his leadership should not be questioned. If this logic is acceptable, even Col Purohit did not have a blemish in his service till the Malegaon-Samjhauta blasts, which are under scanner now. Read Dr Aparna Purohit’s story here. And absolute tearjerker. Why does Ribeiro want us to dismiss the fact that Col Purohit could have been framed?
Halfway through his column, Ribeiro must have felt that he would be perceived as being overly supportive of Karkare. He wants to show that he represents the ‘disenchanted force.’ And the force, obviously, cannot be selectively disenchanted with Malegaon investigation. He has to cite a case from the opposite end of the spectrum. He picks up the Ishrat Jahan case. Read what he says:
I had sensed a similar disenchantment in the force when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in the Ishrat Jahan case, named some Intelligence Bureau (IB) officers in the conspiracy to eliminate Ishrat.
Notice that Ribeiro does not even mention Rajinder Kumar by name. Though he had sensed ‘similar disenchantment’, why did he not stand up for the IB officer at that time? Why did he not choose to represent the force at that time?
Even if we decide to be very charitable to Ribeiro and treat all the above as ‘emotional excesses’, how does one justify his illogical extrapolation that ‘Malegaon blasts case shows that Hindutva forces are succeeding in widening Hindu-Muslim divide’? Apart from Rohini Salian’s allegation that an SP from NIA had asked her to go soft on Hindutva ultras (the allegation was promptly refuted by NIA), Ribeiro does not offer any explanation as to how this can be linked to the designs of Hindutva forces.
This is not the first time the ace cop is attempting illogical, bereft-of-evidence pontification. In March 2015, he declared that as a Christian, he felt he was a stranger in his own country. What was basis for this apprehension? One, the alleged attacks on churches. Though Rupa Subramanya had meticulously gone through the facts of each incident and proved that there was no design and all of there were mere accidents a month earlier in February 2015, it did very little to stop the cop from ventilating his ill-founded fear. Two, Mohan Bhagwat said that Mother Teresa proselytized Hindus to Christianity. This is an accusation against an individual and there seems to be prima facie evidence to support Bhagwat’s claim. Why should Ribeiro perceive this as an attack on Christianity as a whole?
There is, however, a common thread between his outbursts of last year and today—the people he hold in esteem should not be subjected to any scrutiny; he cannot stand that. If it was Mother Teresa in the first instance, it is his good friend Hemant Karkare now.
Ribeiro is a trained cop and one expects a trained cop to build his case on facts so that it stands the scrutiny of the courts. Why then is he failing in this expectation? One of the concluding paragraphs of his Mar 2015 column offers some insight into what, perhaps, bothers Ribeiro. Read this:
What does reassure me in these twilight years, though, is that there are those of the predominant Hindu faith who still remember my small contribution to the welfare of the country of our birth.
Why does he need this reassurance? Is there a doubt in his mind that people might have forgotten his contribution? his icons are questioned, does this doubt erupt in him? His childish excitement at being photographed by his fans seems to confirm this. If so, let us give him the reassurance:
“Ribeiro saab, we value your contribution and will continue to do so. But please remember, building reputation is difficult and you did it successfully. Retaining it is very difficult. Squandering it is easy. Please do not choose the 3rd option.”